One of the most infamous vegetables in the world would be the ampalaya, otherwise known as the bitter gourd. Many Filipino kids remember being forced by their parents to finish their servings of ampalaya, either pushing them to hate vegetables forever or eventually grow into liking the unique bitter flavor. In the Philippines, ampalaya is often sautéed with egg (ginisang ampalaya) with either ground pork, ground beef, or shrimp.

Despite the ugly, bumpy look and the bitterness of the ampalaya, it’s loaded with nutrients and vitamins. Being low in calories but high in fiber and water content, ampalaya is great for those trying to lose weight. It contains Vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C, as well all the magnesium, folate, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc your body needs. Ampalaya is also known to help with blood circulation and purification and is packed with iron, aiding the body to produce more hemoglobin. Adding ampalaya to your diet is an efficient way of getting nutrients because it has twice the beta-carotene found in broccoli, double the potassium in bananas, and twice the calcium of spinach.

Bitter gourd or ampalaya juice is said to help treat diseases and illnesses like cholera, diabetes, gout, and even cancer. You can also boost your workout by having ampalaya within the day, as it boosts your energy levels and improves stamina.

With all these benefits, it’s very much worth it to power through the bitter flavor, but here are some tips to make ampalaya more palatable:

  1. Choose ampalaya that is unripe: they’re bright green in color and firm to the touch. As the ampalaya ripens, it turns orangey-red and gets even more bitter.
  2. The larger the ampalaya, the less bitter, so stay away from smaller ones if you’re cooking for picky eaters.
  3. Keep ampalaya in the fridge to slow down the ripening. You can keep fresh ampalaya for about 4 days.
  4. Before cooking, make sure to wash and scoop out the seeds of your ampalaya. When slicing, leave out as much of the white as possible as this is where most of the bitterness lies.
  5. Soak the sliced ampalaya in lukewarm salted water before cooking. The longer the soak, the less bitter it will be. You can soak ampalaya for at least 5 minutes to overnight.
  6. Do not overcook ampalaya, as this will bring out more bitterness.

 

Check out my video below to learn more about the ampalaya, which will probably be less bitter if we showed it a little more love!

Recipe:

Ginisang Ampalaya at Itlog (Stir Fried Bitter Gourd with Egg)

Ingredients:

  • 1 bitter gourd, cut and soaked
  • 1/2 red onion sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 10 cherry tomatoes sliced in two
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cook all the ingredients except for the ampalaya and eggs for 5 mins on medium heat.
  2. Toss in the patted dry ampalaya, stir fry for 5mins.
  3. Scramble the eggs and toss them in for a minute.

 

Erwan Heussaff
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